Friday, August 16, 2013

31. The Boy's in the Boat

By: Daniel James Brown
Rated 5 Stars

This is one of the two really outstanding non fiction books I read recently.  I come from generations of farmers and I grew up listening to "how bad things were during the Depression"  But this is a book about more than just a story about overcoming hard times but about what we are made of and what we can accomplish if we really make up our minds to do it.

Publisher's Summary

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together - a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.

America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction

By:  John Steinbeck
Rated 5 Stars

I haven't read many books lately but the few I had have been very enjoyable.  I have been diligently working on my quilt and listening while I read.

I bought America and Americans because 1) I like John Steinbeck's writing, 2) I wasn't aware he had written any  non-fiction, 3) it was written in an era that particularly interests me and 4) there are a bunch of snobby reviews on amazon about it that infer it would be over the head of any but the most  discerning readers.  

I am probably one of the most non discerning of readers but could never resist a challenge.  Beside Steinbeck was writing about my "times."  I miss the America I grew up in. 

The country and our society have changed dramatically in the years since the date it was published that it probably really does feel dated some young readers but for me it provides a picture of the times when I was young, and tells of the values of the time that I grew up in. Not all of them were laudable but at least I did not feel like an alien which I often do now days.  Every once in a while I look at my little black dog and remind him "Hobbs, we're definitely not in America any more."

Publisher's Summary

More than three decades after his death, John Steinbeck remains one of the nation's most beloved authors. Yet few know of his career as a journalist who covered world events from the Great Depression to Vietnam. Now, this original collection offers a portrait of the artist as citizen, deeply engaged in the world around him. In addition to the complete text of Steinbeck's last published book, America and Americans, this volume brings together for the first time more than 50 of Steinbeck's finest essays and jouralistic pieces.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

34. The Mine

By:  John A. Heldt
Rated 4 stars

I enjoy time travel books.  I also enjoy a well written romance novel.  Happily this is both. 

I liked the fact that he only transported his character back to 1941, an era which I am at least familiar with as I was 6 years old in that year.  My memories of what life was like in 1941 are a tad bit fuzzy and are from the pov of a child but there was a good bit that came across as familiar to me. Right off I had a kind of coming back to a familiar place. I realize this makes me a little unique among readers. 

I also liked that the main character did not blunder around but recognized immediately what had happened to him and immediately set about figuring out how to cope with his drastic change of circumstances.

None of the characters are larger than life.  Well maybe Joel was a tad bit too resourceful but he was a man in a very tricky situation so I forgave him.  All of the characters felt real and were likable.  In other words these were all people that you felt could easily been real and furthermore were people I would have liked.  

And lastly I found it refreshing that the author did not introduce a villain to add tension to the story but let the story create it's own tension.  There were a couple of baddies but they were strictly background and only served to set the story in motion and then they faded away.

Publishers Description:

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

Friday, July 5, 2013

33. Where She Went

By:  Gayle Foreman
Rated 3 srars

I purchased this audiobook the minute I saw it was out and available on audio. It is a sequel to "If I Stay" and I am sorry to have to say that I was disappointed with it.  I loved "If I Stay" but this one just didn't have the charm and poignancy the first book had.  It felt flat - especially when compared to it predecessor.  Still I'm glad I bought it because I really wanted to know "Where She Went."

 Publisher's Summary:

 It's been three years since the devastating accident... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is L.A. tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock-star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I StayWhere She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

32. Shadows of the Titanic

The Extraordinary Stories of those Who Survived

By"  Andrew Wilson
Rated 2 Stars
Audio Book

The book is a non-fictional account of the lives of a selected group of the survivors.  All of them very deeply effected by the experience, some of them so much that it changed the entire course of their lives.  A few were unable to cope and committed suicide. Some of them did not leave notes.  The author described the dying thoughts and actions of several people as if he had been there and was privy to their last thoughts.  This really bothered me.  It bothered me a lot.  I felt like the author was being disrespectful  to the people he was writing about.  These were real people!  He didn't even write any kind of disclaimer that explained why he decided he had the right to co-opt their last minutes. And then as a result of that I had another issue.   How much credence can you give to anything in the book once you feel the author did at least part of his research in thin air.

I did finish this book and had it not been for that I would have rated it at least four stars. It was well written and the subject of the book was interesting to me.  I just couldn't get past that author presumed to write about dying peoples last thoughts and actions in a way that he could not possibly have known about.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

27. Monkeewrench

By P. J. Tracy.  
Rated 4.5

My Granddaughter Nicky highly recommended this book to me.I was a little leery of it as she tends to read things like Patricia Cornwall books with lots of gore in them.  She isn't bothered by gore as her job exposes her to lots of it while I'm more the cosy mystery type reader.  But this book is kind of between the two types.  Some violence but not too much. :)  And a right out of the blue ending.  I love mysteries that keep you hanging until the very last page.

Publisher Description:

People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective out in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they'll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased-and the horror they thought they'd left behind. If they don't, eighteen more people will die...

Friday, May 24, 2013

28. George VI

By Denis Judd
Rated: 4.5

I hated to pay the kindle price for this book but finally broke down and bought it anyway.  It was very well written and it completes my close look at Britain during WW2 and the post war years I've had going for a while.

Publishers Description:

George VI was the man not born to be king. He nonetheless rescued the British monarchy in the aftermath of the abdication crisis and cemented its prestige with his well-judged performance during World War II and the Blitz. In this acclaimed biography, Denis Judd tells the story of Prince Bertie’s transformation into King George VI including his struggle with a crippling shyness and sense of inadequacy, exacerbated by the stammer which was the focus of the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech. His marriage to the self-assured and supportiveElizabeth Bowes-Lyons and his unexpected accession to the throne in 1936 changed the direction of the young prince’s life for good. Once on the throne, it was he who bore the weighty responsibility for restoring the nation’s confidence in their monarchy following his elder brother’s abdication, and for maintaining morale during the darkest days of World War II, when, together with Winston Churchill, his dignified presence functioned as a beacon of reassurance to civilians and military alike. Denis Judd provides a fascinating, if sometimescontroversial, reassessment of the man who, quite unexpectedly, came to occupy an extraordinary position in a time of unprecedented change.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

29. Columbine

By:  Dave Cullen
Rated:  4 Stars

The best part of the book was how the community managed to take back their school and put the tragic events behind them and create a normal, positive high school experience for the students in the future.  Of course I knew that perfectly well having "watched" so to speak a friend's kid's have just that.  A normal, positive and excellent  high school experience there.

Book Description:

On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma-City style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence-irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting "another Columbine."

When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window -- the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal. 

The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who came to stockpile a basement cache of weapons, to record their raging hatred, and to manipulate every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy's tapes and diaries, he gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

30. The Ashford Affair

By:  Lauren Willig
Rated:  2.5 Stars
Audio Book

I would have given this book a higher rating except that I felt like it was only half there.  Unless the author is planning to write the other half of this book and publish it as a second book it ends in a very unsatisfactory place.

The character of Bea is very well developed until about half way into the story and then she disappears, both literally and figuratively from the book only to appear at the end to wrap up the ending with an apparently exciting story to tell that was only hinted at but left untold.  It ticked me off to be left hanging like that in a story, hence the 2.5 star rating for what would otherwise have been at least a solid 4 Star rating.

Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Willig comes The Ashford Affair, a story about two women in different eras, and on different continents, who are connected by one deeply buried secret.
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards - but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at 34, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s 99th birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything.
Growing up at Ashford Park in the early 20th century, Addie has never quite belonged. When her parents passed away, she was taken into the grand English house by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, and raised side-by-side with her beautiful and outgoing cousin, Bea. Though they are as different as night and day, Addie and Bea are closer than sisters, through relationships and challenges, and a war that changes the face of Europe irrevocably. But what happens when something finally comes along that can’t be shared? When the love of sisterhood is tested by a bond that’s even stronger?
From the inner circles of British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.

Friday, May 3, 2013

26. Dali Lama - Man, Monk, Myth.Mayank

By:  Mayank Chhaya
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

I really admire the Dalai Lama.  He is a true man of peace.  This is a well written biography that tells of his early life and the events that caused him to flee from Tibet and his impact on Eastern Thought.  I am being drawn more and more towards the Eastern POV the older I get and the more disillusioned I get with Christianity.  It seems to me that most Christians don't follow the teachings of Christ.

Publisher's Summary

An authorized biography of one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders.
Written with the full co-operation of the Dalai Lama, this fascinating, up-to-date biography captures the public persona and enduring mystery behind one of the world's most important spiritual leaders.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

28. What Matters in Jane Austen?

By: John Mullen

Rated 4 Stars

This book is full of interesting tidbits, but you do need more than a passing acquaintance with Austen's novels to understand what the author is talking about.  Especially when he is referencing  what characters say to each other.  But for people who are new to reading about the period in history in which Austen's books are set the chapters that address money, mourning, games and social customs  are very helpful. 

Book Description

January 29, 2013
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

Monday, April 15, 2013

24. The Queen Mother

By:  William Shawcross

Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

I was actually looking for a biography of George VI on audible but couldn't find on so I got this one as it was the closest I could get.  I'm beginning to think audible is prejudiced towards male monarchs.

She wasn't really all that special but she brought humanity to the Royal family at a time when they desperately needed it.  She was the right woman at exactly the right place and time.

Publisher's Summary

The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles - and the most beloved British monarch of the 20th century.
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon - the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore's 10 children - was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have imagined that her long life (she died in 2002) would come to reflect a changing nation over the course of an entire century. Now, William Shawcross - given unrestricted access to the Queen Mother's personal papers, letters, and diaries - gives us a portrait of unprecedented vividness and detail. Here is the girl who helped convalescing soldiers during the First World War...the young Duchess of York helping her reluctant husband assume the throne when his brother abdicated...the Queen refusing to take refuge from the bombing of London, risking her own life to instill courage and hope in others who were living through the Blitz...the dowager Queen - the last Edwardian, the charming survivor of a long-lost era - representing her nation at home and abroad...the matriarch of the Royal Family and "the nation's best-loved grandmother".
A revelatory royal biography that is, as well, a singular history of Britain in the 20th century.